I’ve made that statement (or some variant of it) many times. It is meant to convey that I’m a safe person, that I’m above labels, that I’m open minded.
Here’s the thing: It’s not true.
I DO care if you’re gay. I care because, if I’m interacting with you, I want to know something about you. Your orientation is a pretty important piece of who you are, and I want to know that.
If you’re gay, it has probably had a big influence on your life; how you’ve navigated different situations, how you’ve maybe felt unsafe at times, how you might have had trouble trusting people. Whether you fit into an established stereotype, or can pass as easily as Ian McKellen, being gay has colored your experience, and I want to know that.
And there’s another thing, something I’m not as proud of. Although I’ve been a staunch LGBT ally for over 20 years, I still have some old habits of mind and language that have not disappeared as completely as I would like. Ideally, it shouldn’t matter who I’m around, I should always speak and think in ways that don’t denigrate or hurt anyone. Turns out, I’m imperfect, and I still sometimes think or (YIKES) say things that aren’t 100% respectful of all people.
So, I want to know if you’re gay. If I know that, my internal watcher is on guard, making sure that I don’t fall into some habit from my early teens that could ruin someone’s day. In reality, I almost never go there anymore. But knowing you’re gay reminds me to watch anyway, and if I’m reminded to watch, I’m going to learn more about you and more about myself than if I’m not watching. Maybe by the time our interaction is complete, I’ll be a slightly better person. I suppose that makes it a selfish motivation, alas.
I want to know if you’re gay. I care if you’re gay. My gaydar is Straight Dude version 1.0, and it’s pretty weak. So please, let me know. Loud and proud. I will stand by your side, I’ll smack down the trolls with you.
It’s part of who you are. It’s important.